The warning signs were already there, but the latest data from Oslo’s Xeneta suggests 2024 could be even more brutal than expected for carriers in the ocean freight shipping market.

The Xeneta Shipping Index (XSI®) tracks real-time developments in global long-term contracted rates and figures released today shows it fell by a further 4.7% in October.

The XSI® now stands at 158.5 points, which is 62.3% lower than November 2022.

Emily Stausbøll, Xeneta Market Analyst, believes this latest development is an ominous sign for carriers.

She said: “The XSI® is an average of all long term contracts on the market – so in essence the global index is currently being propped up by those older contracts which were signed back in 2022 when rates were much higher.

“These older contracts with higher rates should have afforded some financial insulation throughout 2023, however we have still seen four of the major carriers post big financial losses in Q3.”

Stausbøll stated the situation will get even worse as we enter 2024.

She said: “Those older contracts will largely be replaced in the early part of next year and carriers will be left exposed to the current weak market.

“We can be absolutely certain the new contracts will be signed at much lower rates than those signed at this time last year, so if carriers are already reporting losses, what are they going to be next year? We could be talking about extremely big numbers.”

Stausbøll pointed to Maersk’s loss of EBIT USD 27m in Q3 as a particularly significant development in light of the latest XSI® figures

She said: “Maersk relies heavily on the long term market so they should have been less impacted by the collapse in spot rates during 2023.

“The fact they still posted a loss in Q3 suggests there could be serious problems down the line when the XSI® drops further next year.

“We always knew there was a storm coming in Q1 2024 when the older contracts expired, but it seems as though it has arrived earlier than expected.”

While the XSI® is down from the same period in 2022, long term rates remain up by 39.5% compared to November 2020.

Stausbøll said: “Long terms rates are solid compared to pre-pandemic, but this still hasn’t been enough for some of the biggest ocean liner shipping companies to deliver a positive operating margin in Q3 this year.

“The only way carriers can hope to avoid catastrophic financial losses in 2024 will be through capacity management, but it will be extremely tough to achieve.”

Source: Hellenic Shipping News